In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court decided one of the most contentious cases of our era: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. By a vote split sharply along ideological lines (5-4, with Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito in favor; and liberals Stevens, Ginsberg, Sotomayor and Breyer dissenting), the Court decided that putting limits on corporations donating money to political campaigns—or doing their own political advertising—violated the First Amendment right of free speech.
The reasons why the liberals were against it was because the money of corporations could tilt the election process, favoring the elections of those candidates whose views favored corporations. That, in turn, could influence candidates (or politicians running for re-election) to adopt views congenial to corporations, and possibly vote in favor of bills that benefited the rich donors. That’s fundamentally anti-democratic, giving some people (or corporations, now construed as “people”) a disproportionate influence.
The Citizens United ruling (which I oppose, as I don’t think corporations are people, and believe that there should be spending limits), explicitly discussed the issue of whether this could corrupt the political system, or even create the appearance of corruption; and the majority opinion, written by Kennedy, said this:
While a single Bellotti footnote purported to leave the question open, 435 U. S., at 788, n. 26, this Court now concludes that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.
The court’s own decision along ideological lines was mirrored by the public. Conservatives, who of course favor corporate influence, liked the decision, while liberals (including President Obama and the New York Times) excoriated it, arguing that it would terminally corrupt our democratic government. The liberal view was that in a democracy, corporate spending, because of its potential to swing elections, could buy political influence. And clearly they think it can, for why else would corporations and bodies like the National Rifle Association donate money to politicians with consonant views? Now you can say that this is only meant to keep already-elected politicians with congenial views in power, but, donations are made well before election time, and to candidates who aren’t yet in power.
Indeed, Hillary Clinton herself (along with Bernie Sanders) said that a “litmus test” for any proposed Supreme Court justice should be his/her opposition to the Citizens United decision.
So here’s my question. When I decried the Clinton Foundation’s taking of big sums of money from countries like Saudi Arabia, and corporations, and criticized Hillary’s enormous personal gains from making speeches to Wall Street bankers, I was told that there was no problem because it was never PROVEN that Hillary was corrupted or changed her views based on this money. (Remember, too, that many of us lauded Bernie Sanders for funding his candidacy with small donations just because this seemed more fair, more democratic).
I don’t get the fact that people who cried foul when the Citizens United decision came down are now saying there’s nothing wrong with both Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation taking money from corporations and foreign governments. Granted, funding an election isn’t identical to funding a charity, but in both cases there is the possibility of buying influence. Face it: did the Saudi donations of $10-$25 million to the Clinton Foundation come from a pure altruism on the part of that repressive government, or did they hope for some accommodation from the Clintons?
“Hope” is the operative word here. As we all know, it’s nearly impossible to prove that a donation influences a politician’s views, and they’ll always deny it. It is the possibility of that influence, the possibility of corruption by money, that the laws were meant to prevent—the laws overturned in the Citizens United decision. Liberals opposed that for this reason: what hope does the average and impecunious citizen have of influencing politicians, compared to the oil-rich Saudis or the Wall Street banks?
You might say that influencing an election is one thing, but influencing a future president by donating to her family’s Foundation is another, and the possibility of influence doesn’t exist in the latter case. I don’t agree, and that’s why I said that the Clinton Foundation should be a “blind charity”, or shut down, until no Clinton remains in political office. And no Clinton, including Chelsea, should be on the board of directors. It’s family, Jake!
I see it as hypocritical for liberals to disagree with the conservative court in the Citizens United decision (“no possibility of corruption or the appearance of corruption,” as they said), and yet use that same rationale to excuse Hillary Clinton’s personal gains from speeches to corporations, acquisition of corporate and foreign money to her family Foundation, and her shameless courting of Wall Street, which has now donated about $5 million to her candidacy. (Do you think they might be trying to buy influence?)
It’s almost impossible to detect corruption or influence peddling once it’s occurred, so we need to have laws and regulations to prevent the possibility of corruption. I am not saying Hillary Clinton has been corrupted or influenced by money. I don’t know that. And you don’t know otherwise. But she certainly has done very little to reduce the possibility of corruption in her case, which she could have done. But she has done little because she cares more about winning than about winning with a clean and ethical campaign. The other Democratic candidate, who felt differently, is now gone.
p.s. Need I say again that I’m voting for her and not for Trump? I just don’t want to write the usual tirades against the odious Donald, which you can read everywhere else on the liberal parts of the Internet. And besides, almost no readers of this site, as far as I know, like Trump, so what’s the point?